That's what Lucy (from "Peanuts") calls it, anyway: hockey ball. But I am from Minnesota. I know better. There ain't no ball in hockey. Just a hard-rubber fast-moving puck.
You might think that since winter is over, hockey season is over as well. Not a chance. Now begins the lengthy playoff drive toward the Stanley Cup. The Minnesota Wild aren't out of it yet; they beat the Colorado Avalanche Monday night in overtime. This Star Tribune photo is of the winning goal, scored by Pierre-Marc Bouchard. (Note the blur of a puck in the upper left-hand corner.)
I am not a huge hockey fan, but I like going to games because it's fast and reckless and wild. It's a beautiful combination of brutality and grace--they smash each other into the boards, knock each other down, and then pirouette away lightly on their toes, and with a delicate and precise zip-zip-zip they pass the puck back and forth and then loft it into the net. The red light goes on. The players lift their sticks in celebration. The crowd roars. If you happen to be in Montreal, the crowd roars, "Ole! Ole! Ole!"
And I love the names. The teams are full of French-Canadians, Eastern Europeans, and Finns. They have names you will not find in any other sport. Truly; can you imagine a football player named Pierre-Marc Bouchard? He'd get hooted right out of the locker room.
Or, for that matter, Mikko Koivu? Pavol Demitra? Stephane Veilleux?
A few years ago, Doug and I went to a Canadiens game when we were in Montreal. If live hockey is fun, live hockey in Canada is even more fun, and live hockey in French-speaking Canada is the most fun of all.
The crowd sings "O Canada," in French. The announcers call the game first in French, then in English; a power play becomes a lyrical avantage numerique.
The game we saw was not a playoff game, just a relatively meaningless, early season game against the Florida Panthers. The crowd was enthusiastic. They roared, they groaned, they hollered "Ole!"
A guy in the crowd watched the whole game wearing a plastic pumpkin over his head, because it was Halloween. Every time his image was beamed onto the Jumbotron, the crowd went wild.
The Canadiens came from behind to win, and the exuberant crowd spilled out into the streets. As Doug and I walked along Rue Ste. Catherine toward our hotel, we were passed by beaming hockey fans, fans beeping their horns, fans shouting and cheering. It was joyous and purely happy. The noisy celebration followed us for blocks--along the street, down the hill, and into the chilly October night.
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